Arts Desk

JJ Grey Drains the Swamp

JJ Grey and Mofro released Orange Blossoms on August 26th. I'm a big Mofro fan, and would reccomend any of their four records. With Blossoms, however, they are predictably tagged again with the head- scratching moniker of "swamp rockers"–the quasi-sub genre the stubbornly defies definition. The wiki pedia page on swamp rock lists CCR, Jim Dickinson, JJ Cale, and Tony Joe White as purveyors of swamp and offers up this explanation:

The music is characterized by funky, soulful bass, twangy reverb guitar and songs that typically concerned themselves with matters of Southern American States folklore. There's a literary, Southern Gothic feel to most swamp rock. The lyrics of swamp rock songs often describe life in such locales as along the Mississippi River, in New Orleans or such rural areas as the bayou.

I could quibble with much here. First, CCR's songs were often about a dangerous swamp on the other side of the globe, and Jim Dickinson practices as much Dixieland as anything. Also, a case could be made that JJ Cale and Tony Joe White are bluesmen with singular voices and regional influences.

The Southern Gothic angle is intriguing. Though when JJ Grey sings about the land around his Florida home, the critters and the dark water, the sinister developers and their cronies, it takes me back to my own upbringing in the Midwest. His themes of land and life lost to the soulessness of the modern world resonate well past the South and the 'Glades.

So maybe we resist the temptation to lean on a category that never made sense in the first place and call this music what it is–soul and blues played with conviction.

Or we can call JJ Grey and Mofro what they call themselves: Front Porch Soul. The kind music that was the foundation of Otis Redding's sound, and the kind you'll hear at the 9:30 Club on Sunday, Sept. 21, when Booker T. and the MG's and Eddie Floyd celebrate Stax Records' 50th Anniversary.

JJ Grey and Mofro play the State Theater in Falls Church on Wednesday, October 15.

Listen to JJ Grey and Mofro at http://www.myspace.com/mofroband

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  • curm

    Hopefully JJ will get a bigger crowd than Tony Joe White got when I saw him at Iota back in 2006--20 or so people on a Tuesday night.

    Nice posting btw.

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